What it all boils down to, she says, is effective communication. "If a woman doesn't receive an apology from a man, it's not that he doesn't care," she says. By the same token, "men should be open to the possibility that if a partner is communicating that they've been hurt, it's not that they're being overly sensitive. People just need to recognize that it could be a difference in perception, and they need to approach those differences in a more open and communicative way."
It's important to keep the lines of communication open when resolving any conflict, but when it comes to apologizing, here are a few tips:
• Make it sincere. There aren't any rules governing when you should apologize and when you shouldn't, says Schumann, the one exception being when you honestly feel you've wronged someone. "If you perceive that you've hurt someone, and you sincerely feel like you want to make them feel better, it's a good idea to apologize for it," she says. If you apologize because you think you have to, but don't think the situation warrants an apology, you'll come across as bitter and insincere, she says.
• Don't overdo it. "We don't want people to read our research and apologize for everything," says Schumann. After all, it could make your apologies seem insincere, and it could put you in an awkward position. "If you're constantly apologizing, people may see you as too polite or weak, that you're supplicating to another person," she says. "People need to go with what they feel comfortable with."
• Be open-minded. As Schumann's research shows, there are many cases when you don't apologize, or don't receive an apology, because it all has to do with perception. "Be open minded to the experience of the other person," she says. "Recognize that the person you're interacting with may not see the situation from the same point of view as you see it, or fully understand your experience." So if you don't think you've done anything wrong and someone tells you you've hurt them, just ask why. "In the end, it's more beneficial to simply confront the situation."
Published on: October 4, 2010